I got out of the hospital from a 5 day round of Chemo on a Saturday. In the past, I usually have about 5 good days and then my blood counts bottom out and I am neutropenic; no more going out of the house until my counts go up. That typically lasts about 5 more days and then I am good to go. Well, apparently Mr. Chemo is doing his job nicely because he is just slaughtering my bone marrow. Each round is a little harder to recover from than the previous round. My EXPECTATION was, when I went in for blood work on Monday, a mere two days later, that my blood counts would still be up and I could run several errands after they gave me my results. Actually, that day I left the doctor’s office BEFORE they told me my results because I had so many places to go. They called me on my way home and told me the news: Neutropenic. Already. So, instead of the grand outing to Walmart, I got to head straight home. Alone. I ended up being unable to be in public for TWO WEEKS (see: Confessions of a Stir-Crazy Neutropenic). No fun for an extrovert. My sweet husband even came home for lunch to see me because he could tell I was “frustrated” when I called to tell him the news (he also may have feared I might snap at that point).
I had a large amount of time for reflection during those two weeks, and one thing kept coming up in my mind: My own EXPECTATIONS had set me up for Huge disappointment. I EXPECTED to be well enough to go to a few different stores and “do life” they way I usually do. When that didn’t work out the way I planned, I was frustrated, disappointed, irritated, angry, grouchy, etc. This was just one of hundreds of times I have done this to myself. Even though it is COMPLETELY my choice to hang my happiness on things working out or people behaving how I expect them to, that still tends to be my default setting. A wise counselor/friend once explained it to me like this: “the distance between my EXPECTATIONS and REALITY will be the amount of DISAPPOINTMENT I experience.” For a long time I balked at this notion: “Hmph. I am certainly not going to lower my ‘standards’ just because someone else is inept!” (there’s some gracious thinking for ya). Ok fine. Let’s just say I was disappointed ALOT until I figured out that I was the only one I could control and I was the only one who could change my level of disappointment. I HAD to change my expectations of others and of how life should treat me. My husband always says, “it is what it is.” That used to infuriate me. But he’s right. When we EXPECT something from someone who we know deep down they cannot give us, we set ourselves up for pain. The best and worst news of that is that it’s our own fault. And if it’s our OWN fault, it means WE have the power to change it. It’s not about letting others just act like imbeciles, it’s about understanding that people are doing the best they can do at any given moment. It may not be up to OUR “standards”, or even theirs, but it’s the best they can do with what they have to work with at that time. I sure wish people around me could be more mature or responsible or helpful. But for whatever reason, they just can’t right now. I also wish that I could be more loving and gracious and forgiving than I am today. But I am learning to give others, and myself, grace and permission to grow at the pace GOD has in mind. Not the pace at which I want to see changes in myself and others.
A book I read daily says, “an expectation is a premeditated resentment.” I absolutely believe that. the level of relationship challenges in my marriage and with friends has drastically dropped since I accepted the fact that lowering my expectations was beneficial to everyone. It helped me be less disappointed and guess what? My friends and family seem a lot more relaxed since I stopped “binding up heavy burdens and placing them on the shoulders of others.” Giving others the power to ruin my day by not fulfilling the expectations I had of them is not loving to myself or to them. And being dependent on circumstances going my way or life treating me fairly in order to be peaceful, happy and free, is too risky.
Today my wise counselor/friend I mentioned earlier came for a visit. She asked me, in regards to my Leukemia treatment, “how do you handle never knowing what to expect?”. I told her about what I have learned about keeping my expectations realistic; Trusting that GOD knows what needs to happen better than I do. I don’t EXPECT that I will ever master this, but I do know that I am doing the best I can to trust Him one day, one hour/moment/minute at a time. God does not disappoint if I trust that HIS plan is better than mine. The only EXPECTATION that I MUST hold on to, regardless of how other people behave and whatever surprises life throws my way, is that I have a God who “fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:23)